Ethical, sustainable, conscious, eco… Even the language that surrounds the realm of clothes and shoes that haven't been produced irresponsibly is enough to confuse the most inquisitive style trooper. What is sustainable but not eco? What could be ethical but not conscious? Are these even valid questions? It's a complete minefield for designers, brands, buyers and consumers alike.
The daunting landscape may be one of the reasons you've never pursued the idea wholeheartedly within your own wardrobe; maybe vintage shopping is your planet-friendly route in or perhaps you always make sure you make long-lasting investment purchases rather than diving recklessly into fast fashion. But I understand why you may have struggled up to this point because I have too.
Even with some know-how and press releases flying into my inbox from eco brands across the world, until now, I have felt that being conscious alone wasn't enough to break through: Each piece has to be just as gorgeous as anything else. Let's not beat around the bush—design should never be the second motivation; a product's aesthetic will always be a priority for the majority of style-savvy consumers out there. What I hope is that the added benefit of consciousness can become a normal but wonderful bonus on top of an already awesome purchase.
A few years on from the initial eco-fashion boom, and I bring good news: Brands (new and old) are really stepping up to the bar, offering more "aware" wares that are directional too. There are also two particular UK e-commerce sites that will support the moves you want to make: Always check Reve en Vert and Antibad Store. So without further ado, discover and shop the 36 best ethical fashion brands I rate.
Proud Mary's raffia accessories and beach-ready tunics and skirts are handmade goods that require the traditional techniques and fabrics of artisans from across the globe.
This Mexican-made label has the kind of breezy cotton separates every chic girl's hot-weather wardrobe would happily welcome.
Asceno's luxury swim, sleep and loungewear eco credentials come thanks to manufacturing and social compliance certificates from all of its factories.
Travelling to different destinations across the globe, this label specialises in intricate, artisanal handiwork in bright colours and modern shapes.
H&M's Conscious collection includes organic cotton staples to more adventurous embellished and statement pieces.
Edun promotes fair trade in Africa as well as using skilled craftsmanship.
The clothes sold at Reformation are manufactured within the U.S. in a "green" building using the most advanced eco-friendly technology to improve and chart the impact of each garment made.
Designer Hannah Weiland has changed many people's minds about faux fur—she continues to perfect the art of it.
Angela's bags are made out of animal-friendly leather and by skilled craftsmen, making the range cruelty- and sweatshop-free.
London-based Faustine's a pioneer of the "slow fashion" movement, with each stunning piece beautifully handcrafted using complicated techniques from her crew of artisans.
Artfully pieced together out of vintage pairs of jeans, these are the patchwork denim creations of our dreams—and from a London-based brand too. Excellent.
Clare Vivier's bags are all designed and produced in America.
Sustainable, eco-friendly footwear doesn't have to be hippy: Coclico makes cool heels and tracks the progress it makes to offset its carbon usage.
All of this label's jewellery is handmade in Kenya.
This feted New York designer uses low-impact, sustainable methods to produce his line.
All of Stella McCartney's ranges skip the inclusion of real leather.
Transparent manufacturing methods using approved raw materials and reducing carbon emissions are just a few of this shoe brand's plus-points.
Sophie's beautiful boxy bags are loved the fashion globe over, but she has a new and exciting addition to the family: these carefully constructed patchworked bags, created out of archived leather off-cuts to make something spectacular out of any potential wastage.
This L.A.-based brand has doing good at the core of its business, so this season, the brand is partnering with The Downtown Women's Center and is looking to support homeless women by looking to the future and upskilling.
VereVerto's convertible handbags (and particularly the bumbag styles) have understandably been fast adopted by the Insta set. The pieces are made out of Spanish leather—a bi-product of the food industry and known for its longlasting qualities.
Maison Cleo's handmade shirts are crafted by French designer Marie Dewet and her mother at home. It doesn't get cuter or more sustainable than that.
Ksenia has recently been focusing on recycling and upcycling denim, creating denim jackets crafted out of other vintage denim pieces or even developing a kind of jean "fur" out of shredded fabric. The fashion bloggers are going for it.
From sustainable manufacturing through to sourcing responsible components and keeping much of the production close to HQ in New Zealand, Maggie's high-fashion designs prove that ethical need not mean frumpy.
This British denim brand is as much about sustainability (think innovative mills, recycled and organic materials) as it is about getting the fit right: We're into the Ada kick flares, personally.
Ethical jewellery handcrafted by artisans and powered by an innovative new supply chain technology, this San Francisco–based brand creates the kind of jewellery you'll wear every day and be very proud to do so.
Ninety Percent is a premium line full of the updated basics your wardrobe has been missing this whole time. And what's more is that it shares 90% of the profits made back to the manufacturers and a host of charities. There's also the opportunity for consumers to help decide where the money goes. Ingenious.
We don't need to school you on the joys of shopping at Mango, but its eco-facing collection, Committed, has been known to sell out almost immediately. Organic cotton here is key, but other sustainable fabrics are being introduced.
The straw bags you saw all over social media last summer now come in even more varieties from the lifestyle store Wood/Grey: where everything is sourced with sustainability at the forefront of each brand.
You've loved ByFar's shoes already, but did you know that the Bulgarian footwear brand's pieces are made in a small factory in Italy using premium Italian materials only? Another excuse to buy them…
Not only are Carla Colour's sunglasses unisex and ticking off the season's key trends (hello, pink frames), but they're also made out of a clever renewable fabric called Zyl Acetate: wood pulp and natural cotton fibres come together to imitate plastic.
Using organic, recycled and sustainable fabrics, this Copenhagen-based lingerie label needs to be bookmarked.
These handmade super-bright sweaters come from a Berlin-based brand with a long list of fans.
Pamela Love's bohemian jewellery uses responsibly sourced stones, and almost all the metals used are constructed out of used metals, with a majority of the items being made in Pamela's NYC studio.
Matt & Nat were one of the first vegan handbag brands to ever hit the market—as such you'll find that its designs are totally up-to-date with trends.
Feeling smug now? Us too.